Polyball is apparently Zurich’s blow-out party of the year. It’s hosted by the country’s top school of science and technology, ETH, the university where Einstein got his start (and rarely attended class). While this lovely irony reflects the city’s, uh, party scene, the students at ETH assured me it’s quite an experience.
The 150+ internal innovators I’ve interviewed over recent years all have precisely one thing in common. This thing they share is not any of the traits we typically associate with successful innovators: not creativity, customer insight, or influence; not technical knowledge, team leadership skills, or marketing prowess.
No … the one thing they share is this: persistence. They don’t give up.
If you are thinking this is a motivation piece about the power of ambitious thinking, it’s not. What I’m going to lay out here has nothing to do with psychology or inspiration. This is basic math. A concept so simple, you will grow frustrated that your company doesn’t embrace it. My 11-year-old gets it. But the $50b company I worked with yesterday doesn’t.
People often ask me how to incentivize entrepreneurial behavior from within an established organization. My first answer is “stop killing it.” Leaders put so many barriers and shut doors in front of would-be internal entrepreneurs that just lifting a few barriers or leaving a few doors ajar would on their own create a momentous acceleration in their flow of innovation.
Over one billion people are on it. While its future is still uncertain, it is already impacting most businesses, transforming journalism, and raising broad societal issues in its wake.
Why do big companies change so slowly and die? They dramatically underestimate innovation velocity.
Innovation velocity is the speed and direction of growth that an innovation creates. Small disruptive organisations have very high innovation velocity and this is why they kill big slow incumbents.
I can do it in my sleep. Four years at Wharton, two at Columbia Business School, and a few more in investment banking have drilled into me the most broadly used tool that guides corporate decision-making: the financial projection.
We have this notion that innovators come up with a big idea and then sell it with passion and influence. We imagine Steve Jobs, who was known for having a “distortion field” around him. He could walk into a room and convince everyone that the iPhone was going to change the world and as a result, because everyone was moved to believing it, it did in fact change the world.
A parable tells of a bird that lived on a barren tree in a desert. Too fearful to find a better home, he lived a meager life. One day lightning struck the tree, which caught fire and forced the bird to flee. The bird then reached an oasis filled with water, food, and other birds as company.
If you consider ‘disruptive’ businesses with true transformative effects — think of Uber, Tesla, or AirBNB, for example — you’ll find they do the first, majorly important aspect of any business: they solve problems for the customer.